Wednesday, April 18, 2007


I thought about this yesterday. I am well removed from the scene of the crime but still I have to admit I am more shocked at how not shocked I am over the killings in Virginia. I have given it some thought. There are a few reasons for this and one in particular is interesting.

1. Bad random things happen. I think I am sophisticated enough to realize that at any moment life can end and end in a horribly fantastic fashion as it did in on campus at VT. This understanding protects me from knee jerk reactions or just as important over reactions as to the state of society or even the state of VT campus.

2. I am just far enough away from the US media not to be bombarded with wall-to-wall coverage from all the networks. I am spared the hyperbole that characterizes so much of what the media does these days. While I believe in media bias this has nothing to do with that. This is a general indictment of all media. So, I don't have overly sensationalist reporting of the incidents in my face 24/7. The press here in Europe has turned it into a social science project that quickly "others" the two societies. The obligatory period of "brotherly love" and support shortens once again. It won't be long before they just come right out and say they are happy when bad things happen to the US.

3. This is the most interesting. I think my studies here (terrorism, genocide, torture, etc) have jaded me. When you deal academically with death on a mass scale day in and day out it starts to wear on you. Not to mention the seemingly hopeless nature of the subjects. I have noticed that I have become a bit less of an optimist since I have been here studying. Granted I am still more optimistic than most though certainly no pollyanna. I am now a bit more sullen in my views. I think this has lead to my being a bit desensitized as well.

As I read about the victims and they become more real to me I find myself having the "proper" response. I feel tears welling up. I feel sorrow. I feel anger. I feel helplessness. I felt none of these until the story was personalized. Until that point I really felt nothing. I noticed that students around me, including Americans, also seem un phased by the events. We of course discussed it but it was emotionless. If anything it was actually jovial. But that is often how we deal with horrible and tragic in our classes. We joke about the misfortune of others. You have to because there is so much of it. If I gave a shit about every God awful thing that I study on a daily basis or if I didn't compartmentalize the tragedy I doubt I would ever leave my room. It would be too much to bare.

So I think my reaction or lack there of is an extension of the defense mechanisms I and others have created to shield ourselves from becoming hopelessly jaded and depressed. I think being aware of this is very important because desensitization can be just as bad as hyperbole.

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